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The (More) Defensive Democracy

Russia and Ten Other Threats to Our Freedom

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has catapulted the question of the defensive potential of democracy to the foreground of public interest. However, we must not forget that tanks and missiles are not the only threat to our free society. This volume of essays is therefore devoted not only to the security threat situation in Europe, but also to several “softer” threats, at least not in the classical sense of military threats to democracy.

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Die wehrhafte(re) Demokratie – Russland und zehn weitere Gefahren für unsere Freiheit

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Our democracy is exposed to many dangers. These include internal dangers, whether extremism or polarisation, as well as developments that tend to impact our society from the outside, be it nationalist currents in Europe or attempts to exert authoritarian influence.

However, the individual articles do not content themselves with highlighting the dangers that democracies face today and thus simply painting a gloomy picture to some extent. Rather, they are committed to the guiding principle of a defensive democracy insofar as they assume that democracies are indeed able to counter all the dangers illustrated here – and ultimately to deal with them, too.

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Die wehrhafte(re) Demokratie – Russland und zehn weitere Gefahren für unsere Freiheit

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Armed Conflict and War – Russia's Attack and the End of the European Peace Order

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has once again made it clear that only military strength can ensure the stability and defensive capability of a democracy. By now it must surely be clear to everyone that operational and well-equipped armed forces with strong public backing are by no means a relic of the past; rather, they are necessary for responding to the challenges of our time and protecting an open society. Read the chapter "Armed Conflict and War – Russia's Attack and the End of the European Peace Order" by Nils Wörmer and Philipp Dienstbier as PDF here.

 

Radicalisation and Extremism – On the Difficulty of Dealing with Red Lines

Political and religious extremism confronts democratic states with enormous challenges. That’s why calls for an "iron hand" may seem appealing at times. Combating such phenomena cannot be limited to the repressive component, however. Democratic systems thrive on the conviction and commitment of their citizens. Democracy will only be able to assert itself in the long run if extremist ideologies are banished from the mainstream of society. Read the chapter "Radicalisation and Extremism – On the Difficulty of Dealing with Red Lines" by Steven Bickel and Nauel Semaan as PDF here.

 

Populism and Contempt for Elites – Listening as an Approach

Political apathy and a contempt for elites have long ceased to be marginal phenomena. The relationship between the state and its citizens has undergone radical change and therefore needs new forms of legitimacy. Representative democracy is more dependent on fruitful interaction between politicians and citizens than ever before. Those claiming that citizens alone are responsible for the current grievances, fail to recognise the responsibility of politics. Read the chapter "Populism and Contempt for Elites – Listening as an Approach" by Dr Stefan Hofmann as PDF here. 

 

Polarisation and New Culture Wars – The Guerrilla War of Wokeness

Those who think cultural wars are from another era, are wrong. Current debates on identity politics have also long ceased to objectively exchange on arguments, and instead focus on ostracising unpopular perspectives from political discourse. Still, the dangers that these emerging dynamics pose to democratic cohesion are systematically underestimated and played down. Read the chapter "Polarisation and New Culture Wars – The Guerrilla War of Wokeness" by PD Dr Matthias Oppermann as PDF here.

 

Disinformation and Hate Speech The Ugly Face of Free Speech

Communication and information represent the cornerstones of our democracy. Even more dangerous is the abuse of free speech, however. In the era of the internet, hate speech and disinformation have reached new dimensions and are now endangering social cohesion. How can we effectively combat these phenomena without compromising free speech itself? Read the chapter "Disinformation and Hate Speech – The Ugly Face of Free Speech" by Daphne Wolter as a PDF here.

 

Complacency and Exhaustion – Freedom Instead of Fish or Which Debates We Now Need to Have

Many democracies today primarily live on the glory of bygone days. Zest for action and the power of innovation have given way to general exhaustion. Nevertheless, autocratic regimes’ attractiveness is notoriously overestimated while their resilience is underestimated. That is particularly problematic because it is precisely democracies that live on the promise of being able to satisfy the needs of their citizens to a far greater extent than autocratic regimes. Read the chapter "Complacency and Exhaustion – Freedom Instead of Fish or Which Debates We Now Need to Have" by Sebastian Enskat, Magdalena Jetschgo-Morcillo and Miriam Siemes as PDF here. 

 

Self-Doubt and Authoritarian Temptations The Longing for the Strong Man

Even here in Germany, there are often flirtations with authoritarian practices and the supposed merits of so-called strong men. Especially in democracies with their "open" information societies, there should be no doubt whatsoever about the nature of authoritarian regimes. In this respect, political ignorance is perhaps the greatest threat to our liberal democratic basic order. It strips the democratic community of its vitality and thus its basis for existence. Read the chapter "Self-Doubt and Authoritarian Temptations – The Longing for the Strong Man" by Dr Šimon Bačkovský as PDF here. 

 

Nationalism and RevisionismLooking Back to the Future?

Russia’s attack against Ukraine has shown us the destructive force of nationalist and revisionist politics with frightening clarity. At the same time, the past years have illustrated that even supposedly proven democratic traditions are still far from providing complete protection against nationalist temptations. Developments in Poland and successes of nationalist parties in the heart of Europe therefore give us cause for concern. This cannot be dealt with by demonisation and exclusion, however. Read the chapter "Nationalism and Revisionism – Looking Back to the Future?" by David Gregosz and Thomas Behrens as PDF here. 

 

Cyber Attacks and Troll Armies From Computer Worm to the Threat to Democracy

The threats to democracy are no longer just of an analogue nature. Challenges in the digital space now also threaten the functioning of the democratic order and are considered extremely difficult to contain due to legal grey areas and largely unresolved questions of responsibility. In many areas, the state is not adequately equipped to counter these dangers. Only a clever balancing act between decisive action and adaptability can lead to long-term success. Read the chapter "Cyber Attacks and Troll Armies – From Computer Worm to the Threat to Democracy" by Maximilian L. Knoll as PDF here. 

 

Authoritarian Propaganda and Influence Remaining Credible, Strengthening Resilience

Propaganda and influence by authoritarian states threaten to undermine social cohesion in democratic systems. In light of the increasingly aggressive attempts of countries such as China and Russia to penetrate into the heart of liberal democracies and weaken them from within, strengthening democratic resilience is more important than ever. In an age shaped by relativism and hybrid challenges, democracy will only survive if the indispensability of responsible and independent information is recognised and consistently defended. Read the chapter "Authoritarian Propaganda and Influence – Remaining Credible, Strengthening Resilience" by Frank Priess as PDF here. 

 

Economic and Technological Dependency Dark Sides of Globalisation

What was long considered a catalyst for peace and democracy, has now become an expression of state vulnerability. Dependencies and close ties around the globe have proven to be a double-edged sword since the rise of China and Russia’s brutal war of aggression on Ukraine, at the latest. From now on, economic and technological interdependencies need to be subject to greater scrutiny, as this is the only way to safeguard state sovereignty and security in the long run. Read the chapter "Economic and Technological Dependency – Dark Sides of Globalisation" by Sebastian Weise as PDF here.

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Daphne Wolter

Daphne Wolter

Head of the Department Democracy, Law and Political Parties / Media

daphne.wolter@kas.de +49 30 26996-3607

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